- Grove City, Pennsylvania


October 11, 2011

Pet Talk: Take pet burns seriously

CNHI — Accidents happen, and pets can get burned for one reason or another just like their owners can. When this happens, it is best to have a hands-off policy and leave the treatments to the professionals.

"The best thing an owner can do in the case of a burn is get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible; burns are considered to be emergencies in just about all situations, and the sooner they are brought in, the better," said Dr. Alison Diesel, a lecturer specializing in dermatology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Sometimes pet owners will not notice the burned area for days or even weeks after the burn has occurred. One thing to keep in mind with burns is that sometimes what is seen initially is only the tip of the iceberg.

"What may look like only a red spot of skin on a pet's side following a burn incident can quickly become devitalized, dead tissue, which is not only painful but also more at risk for infections over the next couple of days," Diesel said.

Infection in the animal is a big concern when dealing with burns, especially if the burn goes deeper into the lower layers of the skin.

"If the skin barrier is not intact and normal, bacteria can quickly enter the wound causing not only local infection, but also potentially it can get into the blood stream. This puts the animal at risk for serious illness and potentially death," Diesel said.

Diesel explained that very serious burns require hospitalization and care for several days to weeks at a time to monitor and control for any side effects of the burn.

Cars are often one of the causes for accidents resulting in pet burns.

There are many other scenarios as well that could be the cause of pet burns, such as: barbecue grills; space heaters; spilling hot liquids or food when cooking; objects lying in the yard that conduct heat, such as hoses or tools; or puppies or cats chewing on plugged-in electrical cords.

"Different types of burns require different treatments," Diesel added. "Chemical burns for example, might become much worse when water is applied to them, so the nature of the burn helps the veterinarian know how best to treat it."

Sometimes owners do not witness the animal getting burned, so it is important to be able to try and distinguish if a mark that is found on a pet is actually a burn.

"Severe burns may show up as large areas of exposed deeper skin; this would look like a scraped knee for example, which could be moist, oozing, and often very painful," Diesel said.

Even what looks like only a mild burn can become much worse over time. This is particularly true for thermal burns, which may be caused by heat lamps, water blankets, or even hot water from a garden hose that was used for bathing.

It is natural for an owner who witnesses a pet getting burned to want to try to help the animal and ease its pain, but again, the best thing to do is to get the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

"If it is not a chemical burn, removing some of the burning material can be helpful," Diesel said.

This is the extent to which an owner should try to help a pet with a burn.

Owners can sometimes unintentionally burn a pet when drying it off with a hairdryer after a bath. "If the owner wants to use a hair dryer, it should be done on a cool setting only," Diesel explained.

Less harmful ways of drying off a pet would include thorough towel drying or allowing the animal to dry outside in the sun when the weather is not too warm.

Sometimes more serious situations can occur such as house or barn fires. "Smoke inhalation can be a big problem for dogs and cats, especially if that animal already has any sort of respiratory condition such as asthma," Diesel said.

When it comes to pet burns, time becomes crucial. The best thing an owner can do for his pet is to get it to a veterinarian as soon as possible to be evaluated and monitored. This is the best way to ensure fluffy friends get back to their playful and loving selves!

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The column is distributed by CNHI News Service. Published Oct. 8, 2011 in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201-A Erie St., Grove City.

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